Storm Tossed Come I


For all those who are recovering from Tropical Storm Claudette, here is a poem for our Poetry Monday. And for all the fathers out there, I hope you were celebrated yesterday for the role you are playing in your children’s lives. Be well!

STORM-TOSSED COME I

From turbulent seawaters, storm-tossed come I,

Foam-sprayed and wave-licked and wretched.

Tempters and tempests abound in the oceans.

In maelstroms and whirlpools I fought for my life.

Entangling seaweed prohibited my progress,

And vestiges of barnacles still cling to my sides.

But here in the harbor tranquility reigns.

Soft shimmering blue lights beckoning me

To watery embrasure, to rippling wavelets

Inhabited only by angelfish, promise

Nonpareil shelter. My moorings are anchored,

No salty wanderlust can call me to stray from my port.

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Makes You Wonder


We have friends who own a travel agency, and over the years we have led some groups through Europe for them, so I especially appreciate how challenging it can be to deal with the ignorance of some people.

THESE ARE ACTUAL COMPLAINTS RECEIVED BY “THOMAS COOK VACATIONS” FROM DISSATISFIED CUSTOMERS:  

1. “They should not allow topless sunbathing on the beach. It was very distracting for my husband who just wanted to relax.”

2. “On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don’t like spicy food.”

3. “We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish.”

4. “We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our own swimsuits and towels. We assumed it would be included in the price.”

5. “The beach was too sandy. We had to clean everything when we returned to our room.”

6. “We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as white but it was more yellow.”

7. “It’s lazy of the local shopkeepers in Puerto Vallarta to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during ‘siesta’ time — this should be banned.”

8. “No-one told us there would be fish in the water. The children were scared.”

9. “Although the brochure said that there was a fully equipped kitchen, there was no egg-slicer in the drawers.”

10. “I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local convenience store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts.”

11. “The roads were uneven and bumpy, so we could not read the local guide book during the bus ride to the resort. Because of this, we were unaware of many things that would have made our holiday more fun.” 12. “It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair.”

13. “I compared the size of our one-bedroom suite to our friends’ three-bedroom and ours was significantly smaller.”

14. “The brochure stated: ‘No hairdressers at the resort.’ We’re trainee hairdressers and we think they knew and made us wait longer for service.”

15. “When we were in Spain, there were too many Spanish people there. The receptionist spoke Spanish, the food was Spanish. No one told us that there would be so many foreigners.”

16. “We had to line up outside to catch the boat and there was no air-conditioning.”

17. “It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel.”

18. “I was bitten by a mosquito. The brochure did not mention mosquitoes.”

19. “My fiancée and I requested twin-beds when we booked, but instead we were placed in a room with a king bed. We now hold you responsible and want to be re-reimbursed for the fact that I became pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked.”

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Tidal


Southern California is in the midst of a heat wave. It’s Poetry Monday, and for those whom it’s possible, a nice day to be spending at the the beach. Wherever you are, hope today’s poem brings you some relief.

TIDAL

Blue, green and white settled to a

Spasmodic crescendo

A flood of froth, majestic marble

Crushed into sand.

Then…

            Retreat…

                           To the subtle depths…

To mull and try again.

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The Power of Music


The Power of Music

Scientists have long recognized the power of smell; it’s ability to link directly to the old, primitive dinosaur brain, eliciting long forgotten memories, powerful emotions with a single whiff. So what is there about the power of music, it’s ability to so directly influence the human psyche?

I can come home after a long day of work, feeling tired and drained. Then, after putting in a CD of Mozart, Bach, Paul Simon, Coltrane, Bob Marley, Beck or Willie Nelson, I find myself in a different world, a different place, a whole different mood. How does music accomplish this magic, not unique to me, but shared by most members of our species? Do our brain waves respond to the harmonics we hear? Is it all a trick of association, a linkage of a memory to a previously heard tune?

Music is said to be a universal language. What makes it so? Which rhythms, cadences make you want to dance? What melody captivates your mind, forming recursive loops you can’t seem to escape, even through effort of will? What sound is most likely to bring joy to your heart? What is the power of the Blues? Sad to say, I am not a musician. Beyond sucking on ice cubes in 4/4 time, or beating my hands on the nearest table top to the sounds coming from the stereo, my musical abilities are non-existent. Yet, I love and appreciate all different kinds of music, and each seems to have a profound effect on me. Feel free to weigh in, to educate me, or just share your favorite from you personal jukebox.

Posted in America, Beauty, Happiness, Music, Thoughts & Musings | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Riding


If you’re experiencing a sense of Déjà vu, the following selection for Poetry Monday comes to you from the archives.

There is no question that Southern California is a car culture. Visitors who come here for the first time are often amazed (and frustrated) that it’s almost impossible to get around the city without access to an automobile. Until I moved here, I managed to survive quite nicely without owning a motor vehicle. My favorite poet has escaped from the auto-centered life style to Paris, a city that provides excellent means of mass transit, and where he now resides without that California icon, the car. However, before departing from here, he penned the following poem, capturing the flavor of that favorite youthful pastime,  going out for a spin.

riding

a little red hatchback gleams like a scarab in the desert

burning through the Alemeda corridor

down the freeway-wide surface streets

with Gothic-steel factories pluming white into the white

afternoon sky,

white that the falling sun will soon ignite into stained glass

yellows and oranges.

but for now the car cuts through the enfolding haze

then out of the industrial and into the lower-rung commercial

with liquor stores and blacks and Mexicans crowding the bus stops

marginalized, problematized, by money or lack thereof.

it is late summer afternoon on the western side of LA County

where the asphalt meets the ocean

and the red hatchback dodges smoothly through thickening

rush-hour traffic

like a ruby sifting through gravel

flashing under the California sun.

p. ferenczi

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Longevity


Longevity 



Here’s something to think about at our ages  ..


1. The inventor of the treadmill died at the age of 54

2. The inventor of gymnastics died at the age of 57

3. The world bodybuilding champion died at the age of 41

4. The best footballer in the world Maradona, died at the age of 60.

5. James Fuller Fixx credited with helping start America’s fitness
revolution by popularizing the sport of running died of a heart attack
while jogging at 52 years of age.

BUT

5. The KFC inventor died at 94.

6. Inventor of Nutella brand died at the age of 88

7. Imagine, cigarette maker Winston  died at the age of 102

8. The inventor of opium died at the age of 116 in an earthquake

9. And the Hennessey Liquor inventor died at 98.


How did these doctors come to the conclusion that exercise prolongs life?

The rabbit is always jumping up and down but it lives for only 2 years
and the turtle that doesn’t exercise at all, lives 400 years.

So, take some rest, chill, stay cool, eat, drink and enjoy your life.

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Memorial Day Poems


Today is Memorial Day. Having attended an all-boys school during the Vietnam era, I lost a significant number of friends and classmates during that war. Many years later, after the Vietnam Memorial wall was built in Washington D.C., I still recall the impact of seeing their names inscribed in that monolithic black marble, as multitudes of visitors traced their fingers over the memories of their own loss. Poetry Monday wishes to honor all who gave their last measure in those far-away jungles, as well as all the other servicemen and women whose lives ended so abruptly and too soon. As for those who came back, many continue to bear the scars and burdens unappreciated by the many who never  had to endure the horrors of those placed in harm’s way. These two poems are for you.

Home Far Away From Home

1) We lived in a corrugated metal hootch
Surrounded by sandbags. 
Once a month we sprayed the wooden floor
With diesel fuel to kill the cockroaches.
The only color in the place was Soon’s easy chair.
He’d ordered it from Sears.
Only the mail clerk could get away with that. 

2) There were nine of us.
Four on each side,
And Soon in the lean-to.
He slept in a hammock.
We all had our own taste in music.
We had all purchased stereo systems at the PX.
Balance was an issue. 

3) Our shower shack was out back.
It had six spigots.
Two of them worked.
One night the huge water tank collapsed,
Crushing the shower shack.
MacMurray had showered ten minutes before. 
Danger came from unexpected places.

4) We were all clerks of various sorts.
Howells was the Colonel’s aide.
The “b” on Howell’s typewriter didn’t work.
Howell’s vocabulary grew in Vietnam.
None of his words had “b” in them.
It don’t mean nothing.

5) It was our favorite phrase.
We used it for everything.
They ran out of beer at the EM club.
It don’t mean nothing.
Someone threw a grenade 
Under the Sergeant Major’s hootch.
It don’t mean nothing.

6) We were just on the edge of the war.
We daily viewed it in our hospital’s beds,
In the eyes of our men returned from the field.
A year earlier, Cu Chi had been under attack.


Four years later it was under Communist control.
After we left they discovered the Cu Chi tunnels.
Turns out the enemy was underneath us all along. 

7) I was the last to arrive;
So, over the next year,
They all left me.
Howells, Helmey, Olds, Soon.
It was hard.
We had become brothers.
I don’t know what has become of them.
I can see their faces.
We were very, very close;
And then they were very, very gone.
That was Vietnam.
It don’t mean nothing.

November 3, 1970
The Day I Came Home From Vietnam

I turned back for one last look
As I boarded the plane.
It was a place I was sure 
I would never see again.
Thankfully, I was wrong;
But at the time
I was just so happy to be 
Leaving alive. 

I expected a rowdy flight home.
At liftoff a rousing cheer
Catapulted us upward.
G.I.s laughed and pinned
Their Purple Hearts to the
Uniforms of smiling flight attendants.
After a few moments of backslapping
The plane went silent.

I looked back at those behind me,
Quiet faces, some tearstained faces.
After a gasp of exuberance,
They had quickly drawn
Back into themselves.
I couldn’t tell if they were
Looking backward or forward,
But they had quietly drifted somewhere.

We re-crossed the International Date Line,
Regaining those hours we had lost.
For me, a bonus.
More life to spend with loved ones.
For others, those extra hours
Would extend the pain of remembrance
And the frustration of readjustment.

For some, this was indeed a freedom bird;
But many were being carried 
To a new kind of prison.

Jim Olson

Posted in America, Death and Dying, History, Honor, News and politics, Poetry, Southeast Asia, Thoughts & Musings, Vietnam War | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Need for Community


We recently spent a very pleasant  evening with a couple sharing a meal, looking out over the Pacific as the ocean once more consumed the warmth of the sun, marveling as how no two sunsets, just like no two days, are exactly the same. Before dinner, our host and I walked along the beach, discussing the parts of our lives most important to us, leaving our spouses to have their own private conversation as dinner was being prepared. We discussed the nature and challenges of our work as physicians, and he expanded on the central role extended family played in his personal life. He being Middle Eastern, this came as no surprise to me, as I have long observed the tight familial bonds of culture in various ethnic groups who place high premium on the importance and centrality of familial connections in life.

After dinner, relaxed and appreciative of our good fortune, we were able to talk about topics that were personal, meaningful, and somewhat sadly, not often discussed between people calling each other friends. All four of us come from different cultural backgrounds, but through our discussion, have taken a small step in the all-important need we all have in forming a community.

A recent WSJ Magazine piece asked some luminaries to weigh in on their idea of community. David Oyelowo, and actor, producer and director, wrote: “Community for me has hinged on mothers, whether it be my mother or my wife…Mothers are exemplary to me of how to, in a very natural and organic way, build community, which is through food, through conversation, through kindness and joy.”  Elizabeth Nyamayaro, former U.N. senior adviser, wrote: “I grew up in a very small village in Zimbabwe, where gogo, my grandmother, raised me.  She shared with me an ancient African philosophy called ubuntu that literally translates to “I am because we are.” It is the understanding that we all belong to one human family, that we need each other and we are responsible for each other…We realized we’re all connected in our shared humanity.” Finally, Edward Lee, chef and founder of LEE (Let’s Empower Employment) Initiative, writes: “This year, after almost three decades of being a chef, I finally understand what the power of a meal can be: hope. Sometimes a meal goes to a family of four who struggle each night to put food on the table. Sometimes it’s an elderly person who lives in isolation with no one to talk to. Sometimes it’s a person so distraught that a meal feels like a connection greater than one’s own struggle. But all these people share one thing: they are all part of a community. A meal tells people someone is thinking of them. A meal is a connection to a farmer, a purveyor, a chef, a hostess, a volunteer and, ultimately, to a person who is thankful. A meal is a sense of normalcy in an insane world.”

Some of us have been blessed with extended families, a circle of close neighbors, a tight group of like-minded thinkers and doers. For many, lacking close family, social, religious ties, we are in need of establishing our own community, finding our own tribe, and reaching out to those who are in even greater need than us, as chef Lee eloquently describes.

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The Summer Day


With the speed of hummingbird wings, the days are flying by, and it’s once again a Poetry Monday. Summer has not yet officially arrived, but with our temperatures today expected to be 92…

The Summer Day
(with gratitude to Holy)

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

Posted in America, Beauty, Death and Dying, Happiness, Poetry, Religion, Thoughts & Musings | 4 Comments

Ripped Off By Home Depot’s Plumbing Contractor!


Our biggest surprise on Mother’s Day came when we heard water running after our morning shower. Following the sound of running water led us out the garage, where water was coming out from the bottom of our water heater, and starting to flood the garage. Following the instructions on the tank, we turned off the valve on top, which is supposed to shut off further inflow, turned off the gas, and then attached a hose to the spigot at the bottom of the tank, took the hose out to the street, and open the valve to allow the water from the tank to drain out. After watching the water continue to drain for some time, it became apparent that the shut off valve on top was not performing its function. Further attempts to tighten it resulted in no improvement, and water kept flowing out to the street. At least, it was no longer coming into the house.

My wife, who’s very organized, pulled the paper work on the old water heater, and found we had bought it at Home Depot 20 years ago, and it cost us $600 installed by them. We have a friend who works at Home Depot, so we called him, and he gave us the name of the man we should speak to in the plumbing department when we got there. Turned out he was off that day, but another of his associate showed us the three models they currently carried. Our first sticker shock was finding that these appliances now cost in the mid-range $860. When your house in danger of flooding, you don’t spend a lot of time comparison shopping, so we indicated that we wanted to make the purchase as long as the installation could be done either the same day or the next day. The lady helping us assured us that this could be accomplished, and took down our address and phone number. When we wanted to pay, she told us that someone would be out to look at the problem, assess the situation, and give us the price at the time. This should have been our first warning, as previously everything was laid out on paper in the store, and we paid on the spot.

When we arrived home, there was already a message on our phone that the plumbers contracted with Home Depot had called. We called back immediately ARS Rescue Rooter, and were assured that one of their people would be out to the house in an hour. This promise was kept. Soon, a young man arrived, looked at our existing appliance, and told us that we would also have to buy new earthquake straps, new gas connector, and a new valve in order to meet current city construction codes. He quoted us a total of $2,460 for the tank and its installation. This seemed very high to me, given that the appliance itself was only $860 in the store. While his quote detailed what parts would be installed, it provided no breakdown in the costs or the cost of labor. Again, I had water running out to the street we couldn’t turn off, we needed hot water in the house, so I wasn’t in a position to try to get other quotes, especially as he promised the installation would take place the following morning. Upon agreeing to the company’s price, he called a number of an outside agency, where I had to verify to the person that I was the home owner, and I had been provided the three different product options for the installation. This in fact was done, but the prices only differed by a hundred dollars, similar to the appliance prices in the store. The woman asked me if I had any friends around at the time of our conversation, which seemed like a strange question, but I answered “no.”

Two very nice people showed up the following morning, and performed the job as promised. In talking to them, I again indicated that I felt the cost of installation was very high. They told me that had I gone to Lowe’s, the price would have been the same, and if I hadn’t gone directly through Home Depot, with whom they had an exclusive contract, I would have been charged $3,000. I also had a leaky faucet in the kitchen, and asked how much they would charge to install a new one if I provided the product, since they were already on site. The answer was $270. Having done a similar install a year ago, I knew this was very high, and since it wasn’t an emergency, we decided to do it later.

Having the luxury of time, we were able to find the name of a licensed and bonded plumber through a friend who also had a new water heater installed by the same man. He came out the next day, installed a new fixture for $125, less than half the quote we had been given. He commented that the water was coming out brown. We explained that we just had a new water heater installed by Home Depot, and thought the price was rather high. He asked me what model, and if the price was over $1700? I replied, sadly, “yes.” He shook his head, and told us he does that same job for $1,300, and still makes a decent profit.

I agreed to the Home Depot’s contract company’s price, but it was an agreement under duress. Do I feel ripped off? Absolutely. Based on the requirement to have an outside agency confirm my agreement, I suspect lots of other customers have complained about this kind of price gouging. The promise of fast service response and good quality installation was provided. If the price for the work had been 20-25% higher than the going rate for the job, I would accept that as a reasonable premium. But a 100% surcharge? Really? Hopefully, my experience will help save you from a similar fate.

Posted in America, Appliances, Ethics, Lies, Organizations, Shopping, Thoughts & Musings | Tagged , | 2 Comments